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Couple separated by Covid have emotional reunion at Gatwick airport

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A couple separated by Covid got engaged at Gatwick as the airport marked the first day of relaxed quarantine measures.

Ben Gilkes and Cristina Paiva had been apart for two months after Ben was unable to go on their joint trip to Portugal after catching Covid-19 between his first and second jabs.

Cristina, a nurse, returned from Porto on the first day of relaxed quarantine rules for EU arrivals. 

Ben heralded her homecoming by popping the question alongside a bouquet of flowers - with his mother, Rosie Nightingale, also present.

The heart-warming scene mirrored both the beginning and end of the 2003 romantic comedy film Love Actually, which showcased footage of people reuniting at arrival gates with their loved ones, with Hugh Grant providing commentary over the top. 

The proposal was one of many emotional reunions marking the relaxation of restrictions for double-jabbed EU and US travellers.

Those who have had both jabs of a Covid vaccine were allowed to enter the UK from 4am this morning after the Government announced they would be exempt from quarantine on July 27.

John Gurney, a British ex-pat who lives in Amsterdam with his family, brought his young children to see their grandmother who lives in the UK for the first time since Christmas 2019.

Ben Gilkes and Cristina Paiva, a couple who were separated by Covid, got engaged today at Gatwick as the airport marked the first day of relaxed quarantine measures. Pictured: Ben on one knee as he proposed to Cristina

The couple had been apart for two months after Ben was unable to go on their joint trip to Portugal after catching Covid-19 between his first and second jabs

Mr Gurney said: 'It's just a relief because of the tension of the [vaccine] passport thing and you wonder 'are all of these QR codes going to work?'

'My mum just said to the grandkids 'you're real, you're not just on a screen'.

'We normally come every Christmas and then last Christmas we sort of presumed you will and then haven't and then they were like. 'oh, it's happening and then oh it's not'.'

Jack, Sam and Dan are brothers who have reunited with their brother Ryan for the first time in two years after he spent time working in Russia and Ukraine.

On arrival at Gatwick, the brothers and their gathered family cheered Ryan through the arrival gate.

Jack, who had not seen Ryan for a year longer than his brothers, said: 'It's a bit surreal to finally be all together again after so long.'

Cristina, who works as a nurse, returned from Porto on the first day of relaxed quarantine rules for EU arrivals. Ben heralded her homecoming by popping the question and presenting her with a bouquet of flowers

The US is working with the Government on a plan to allow Brits to enter America after this latest change to the rules.

The UK recorded 24,139 new cases of Covid yesterday.

It comes as families separated by Covid-19 have been reunited following a heartbreaking near-two years apart after the Government finally allowed double-jabbed people from the US and EU to jet in to the UK and avoid quarantine. 

Passengers returning from the US today told MailOnline how they were 'very emotional' after not seeing family for nearly two years.

Sue Hasyniec, 66, from Devon, was at Heathrow Terminal 5 today welcoming her newly wedded son Joshua back from Dallas after nearly two years with his wife Hannah. The couple were forced to marry without their parents, who watched on Zoom.

The proposal was one of many emotional reunions marking the relaxation of restrictions for double-jabbed EU and US travellers

She said: 'I was last over there in October 2019, so I haven't been able to see my son for nearly two years.

'He got married on Saturday and I was absolutely gutted because I couldn't go to the wedding. I kept calling up the American Embassy saying, 'it's my only son, I had him at 40 and I want to see him get married.

'But they kept saying it wasn't a good enough reason to be exempt. It was heart-breaking watching Joshua get married without either of their parents.

'I'm really excited when I found out he wasn't going to have to quarantine. So I'm taking them straight down to Portsmouth for some nice surprises, which I cannot reveal.

'Initially he was going to have to quarantine for five days. And it was such a lucky coincidence because his in-laws bought the flight three weeks ago as a wedding present. I thought I was blessed.' 

Those who have had both jabs of a Covid vaccine were allowed to enter the UK from 4am this morning after the Government announced they would be exempt from quarantine on July 27. Pictured: Ben and Cristina embrace one another after reuniting at Gatwick airport today

Joshua Hasyniec, 27, said: 'It's been so long, so seeing my mum is fantastic. I never imagined this sort of thing happening would stop me from seeing her. We're going to go outside and enjoy ourselves.  My wife is really excited about Jaffa cakes, it's her favourite English confectionery.'

Michael and Su Blake were among those who embraced their grandchildren and their parents for the first time since 2020 as their fully-vaccinated family flew into London Heathrow from New York this morning.   

Susan Handfield also met her baby granddaughter Charlotta for the first time as she and her mother Eva arrive from Berlin because many families have not able to see each other for approaching two years because of strict curbs on travel to and from the UK.

And it also means that British citizens double-vaccinated abroad can also travel back home more easily.

Non-UK residents arriving from amber list countries have previously been forced to self-isolate when arriving in the UK - even if they have been double jabbed. 

An emotional Lucinda Tooze (left) from Plymouth meets her sister Sophie and her two sons in arrivals after they jetted in from the USA

Joshua and Hannah Hasyniec landed in London from Houston, Texas as quarantine rules were relaxed

A grandfather hugs his granddaughter today as flights into the UK from the EU and US carried double jabbed passengers now able to avoid quarantine on arrival

Susan Handfield, left, meets her baby granddaughter Charlotta for the first time, held by her mother Eva as they arrive from Berlin

People fully vaccinated in the United States and European Union, except France will now be allowed to travel to England without having to quarantine on arrival

There were tears and hugs in Heathrow terminal 5's arrivals as the first flights came in this morning

Many of those people seeing family for the first time had jetted in from the US, including this young woman from Houston

A mother embraces her son as he arrives from the United States at Heathrow's Terminal 5

Aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents hugged children they hadn't seen since Covid-19 shut down the globe

Lucinda meets her nephews and sister Sophie Lockard after they flew into the UK from Miami with British Airways today

Mother Sandra Clark embraces her daughter Shiona, who has not seen her mother since last September. Sandra flew in from Washington this morning

Battle to save summer: Rishi Sunak leads cabinet rebellion demanding u-turn on plans for ruinous amber-plus list 

The creation of an extra travel alert level hangs in the balance today amid a mounting Tory revolt and a warning by Rishi Sunak that the industry faced devastation - while travel experts push for 17 destinations to be added to the quarantine-free green list.

Ministers signed off proposals last week to create an 'amber watch list' that could plunge the plans of hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers into turmoil.

Travellers would be warned that destinations – possibly including hotspots such as Spain and Italy – face being placed on the red list while they are away, forcing them to quarantine on return in a state-selected hotel at huge expense.

But Whitehall sources last night told the Mail that the plans could now be scrapped - amid a growing backlash from Tory MPs. 

It comes as yesterday it emerged that Mr Sunak had written to Boris Johnson to warn the Government risked damaging the travel sector by imposing more 'draconian' measures than EU rivals. 

And today fully vaccinated arrivals to the UK who have been double jabbed in the US or the EU will no longer have to quarantine when arriving from amber list countries after a rule change. 

The Chancellor said UK border policy was 'out of step with our international competitors' in a way that threatened to damage jobs.  

Tory backbenchers also took aim at the Government's 'amber watch list' plans, which they dubbed 'inexplicably complicated'.

And industry bosses last night issued a warning that it was the 'last chance saloon' to 'save the summer' unless ministers moved more countries on to the green list.

Travel expert Paul Charles has said it would be a 'disaster' if the Government introduced a new travel traffic light category.

Lucinda Tooze, 31, from Plymouth said: 'I've been waiting two years to see my sister Sophie and two nephews who live in Miami.

'I'm very emotional and can't even believe it really. When I saw the picture of them boarding, I couldn't even believe it.'

After walking through the arrival gates, Sophie said: 'I haven't slept because I've two little terrors on the flight with me.

'But it's fantastic to see my sister and very surreal. I don't have to quarantine because it literally changed today.'

Shiona Seaman, 27, a housewife from Suffolk who is waiting for her mum at Heathrow Terminal 5 said: 'We're very, very close, so it's very nerve racking and exciting.

'I woke up this morning feeling very nervous for the two-hour drive. She's flying in from DC, and I haven't seen her in a year.

'The first thing we're going to do is visit her aunt and cousins - because she's originally Scottish.

'I'm very excited about the rules changing because otherwise my dad wouldn't have been able to visit because of his work.

'He only gets two weeks off, so if he had to do a 10-day quarantine it wouldn't have been worth it.'

Her mother Sandra Clark, 60, said: 'I was coming whether or not I had to isolate but not having to make it all the better. It's nice to be here because I haven't been for three years.'

Hannah Harper, from DC who is working in Bristol as an environmental consultant and was waiting at Heathrow Airport for her husband to arrive from Washington DC today.

The 30-year-old said: 'I'm thrilled because we were both fully vaccinated months ago but didn't want to risk it.

'We were really worried about having to spend a lot of money on tests and quarantining so we could see each other.

'It was such a relief when I heard they were changing the rules.'

Her husband Ryan Lutz, 30, who is starting for a PhD at the University of Bristol in September, added: 'I've been waiting for about three months for my visa and for quarantine rules to relax.

'When I heard the rules were relaxing late last week, I was super relieved because I hadn't seen my wife in many months and I've already had to rebook my flights three times.'

Pippa Smith, 52, from the New Forest, was also waiting at Terminal 5 for her son to come back from the States today after he got married across the pond.

She said: 'My son went to the United States three weeks ago to get married.

'He had to quarantine for two weeks in Mexico before flying to Pennsylvania. He went without anybody, without family or his friends.

'It was all done with technology and a few hiccups. It's been a very big mix of emotions because of covid

'This is the first time that I've absolutely resented Covid. When I heard about the change in rules, I felt great but it was too late.

'It's bitter-sweet because they can come here but we can't go there without having to isolate. We've given America more than they've given us.'  

Families apart for approaching two years were reunited for the first time since the pandemic began

Families embraced for the first time since 2020 after being kept apart by Covid

The new travel rules meaning fully vaccinated travellers from the US, the EU and a handful of other European countries has led to a '300% increase' in bookings to the US.

But Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade said as he welcomed the change said that adding more tiers to the travel system, as Cabinet ministers are currently considering, would over-complicate international travel, describing the amber list as a 'red flag for travellers'.

Mr Alderslade told Times Radio: 'I think the announcement this morning is very welcome - there will be an uptick in bookings.

'We've seen from the US around a 300% increase in bookings to the US - but we've got to somehow try to find a way to get more countries on the green list and we absolutely should not be going down the road of adding more tiers to an already very complicated international travel system.'

'I think the problem with the US is that we can't travel there, so the Biden administration still will not allow Brits and Europeans to enter the US, so it will be slightly curtailed because of that,' he added.

'I think the big issue for us as an industry is the green list... amber at the moment is a red flag for travellers, it's a glaring warning sign because of the worry that people have that they will either be stranded overseas or they will have to quarantine either in a hotel or a home for 10 days.' 

Non-UK residents arriving from amber list countries have previously been forced to self-isolate when arriving in the UK - even if they have been double jabbed.

But from 4am today, the rules will change to allow them to enter the country providing they have been double vaccinated in either the US or an EU country.

The rule change will be a big boost for families abroad who have faced strict restrictions when planning visits to the UK since March last year.  

The UK government has said the change, which was announced last week, will help to reunite family and friends whose loved ones live abroad.

Airline bosses have welcomed the move, although travellers will still need to take either a lateral flow or PCR test pre-departure and a PCR test on the second day after they arrive.

Under-18s will be exempt from isolation, and some will not have to test, depending on their age. 

But air travel will not fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic for up to another three years, industry bosses have warned.

The International Air Travel Association (IATA) sounded the warning as new quarantine rules come into force today.

Ministers are being implored not to create a new travel traffic light category that could put thousands of holidaymakers at risk of having to endure an enforced stay in hotel quarantine.

Reports have suggested there is a fallout among Cabinet ministers over proposals to introduce an amber watchlist, designed to warn travellers of the possibility that countries with concerning coronavirus data - which could potentially include Italy and Spain - could be put onto the red list at short notice.

A mother holds a sign for her son as she waits for his arrival at Heathrow's Terminal 5

A passenger is greeted by a child after arriving on a flight from the US at Heathrow this morning

A happy British Airways cabin crew (Stuart Brumby, Graeme Donaghy, Samantha Hannah,  Charlotte Harvey and Sophie Lewis) who were on one of the first flights into Heathrow from New York this morning safely carrying many people being reunited with their families in the UK today 

There were hugs at arrivals in Heathrow in scenes repeated all over the country today as the rules changed

Michael and Su Blake hug their children and grandchildren as they flew into Heathrow this morning after quarantine was lifted for the double-jabbed from the US and EU

Those returning from a red list country must enter a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

In a ray of hope for millions of British holidaymakers, industry experts last night released optimistic data which they say shows how 17 countries (pictured) could be added to the quarantine-free green list or green watch list.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, is one of those to have railed against the idea of an amber watchlist.

'There's no need for an amber watchlist, which would complicate the traffic light system even more,' he tweeted.

'Just create a simple go and no-go list, as Americans have, enabling the fully-jabbed to travel at will. It's not rocket science.'

There is already a green watchlist to alert holidaymakers that certain destinations could be relegated to the amber list, where anyone not fully vaccinated has to self-isolate for 10 days on their return.

All travellers entering the UK from green list locations do not have to self-isolate, while there is also an amber-plus list, containing only France at present, which scraps the quarantine exemption for the double-jabbed.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, according to the Telegraph, is against the idea of an amber watchlist and would instead like to see travel opened up further.

It comes as Labour accused the Government of being 'in chaos over their border policy' following reports the Chancellor has written to Boris Johnson to call for travel restrictions to be eased.

Rishi Sunak has reportedly told the Prime Minister that the UK's entry and exit rules are 'out of step with our international competitors' and are hurting the economy.

Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said it showed the two most senior figures in Government were 'in open disagreement' over the travel regulations, which are in place to keep Covid-19 variants of concern from taking hold in the UK.

'Rather than brief the Sunday newspapers against each other, the Tories need to get a grip and bring this summer of chaos to an end,' said the senior Opposition figure.

Travellers would be warned that destinations – possibly including hotspots such as Spain and Italy – face being placed on the red list while they are away, forcing them to quarantine on return in a state-selected hotel at huge expense

Ministers are due to meet on Thursday to decide the travel rules that will be in place for most of August.

Analysts have predicted that Spain could be the next country to go on the amber-plus list, in what would be a blow to British tourists given the country is the UK's most popular tourist destination, while France could be promoted to amber once again.

No 10 sources said it was too early to speculate on what changes might be made next week, and pointed to the decision to allow into Britain those fully vaccinated coming from the US and European Union as an example of Mr Johnson's own desire to see looser restrictions.

Under the rule, which came into effect at 4am on Monday, double-jabbed US and EU travellers do not need to quarantine on arrival into England.

The Department for Transport said it would not comment on 'speculation' when asked about whether an amber watchlist was being considered.

A spokesman for the Whitehall department said the traffic light system was 'kept under regular review' and 'based on the latest risk assessment from the Joint Biosecurity Centre', which assesses the public health risk of international travel.

The debate over border controls comes as the UK turns its attention towards an autumn booster shot programme, with the NHS planning for third jabs to be administered as early as September 6 to help top-up immunity levels.

The Telegraph said vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi had briefed MPs on the plans, which include the aim of delivering an average of almost 2.5 million third doses a week and carving out an increased role for pharmacies.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: 'The Government is preparing for a booster programme and JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) have published interim advice on who to prioritise for a possible third vaccine from September 2021.

'The booster programme - which would ensure millions of people most vulnerable to Covid-19 will have the protection they have from first and second doses maintained ahead of the winter and against new variants - will be informed by the JCVI's final advice.'

The department said more details would be announced in 'due course', with ministers understood to be waiting for further results from the Cov-Boost trial to see which vaccines should be used in the autumn programme.

The £19.3 million UK clinical trial is examining key questions such as whether people who have had two doses of AstraZeneca may get more benefit from a third dose of Pfizer.

Government data released on Sunday showed that a further 65 people had died in the UK within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, while a further 24,470 lab-confirmed Covid cases were also recorded.

And more than 85 million Covid-19 vaccines, including first and second doses, have been administered in the UK - with more than 88% of adults having now had a first dose and more 72% getting both doses.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said it was a 'phenomenal achievement' to have delivered so many doses in under eight months, adding: 'It has shown Britain at its best.'

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